Dr. Parang Mehta, MD.

Breastfeeding is one of the options for feeding your baby after birth. The decision is individual, of course, but here are some reasons to opt for breastfeeding: the milk is optimally designed for your baby, it's sterile, always available at the correct temperature, protects against many infections and other diseases, and helps develop a mother-child bond.

When should I start?

The sooner the better. Babies have an astonishing capability to latch onto the offered breast and start feeding within minutes of birth. Many cultures recommend withholding feeding for a certain number of hours, or even days, but there is no basis for this cruel denial. Nature obviously intended babies to be fed early.

Many women associate milk production with a feeling of fullness in the breasts. Though this is a sign of engorgement, small amounts of milk are available to a baby even without it. The early milk, thin and yellowish (called colostrum), is an important source of nutrition and disease resistance factors for the baby, and must not be wasted.

Another advantage of early feeding is that it stimulates more milk production. Suckling by the baby soon and often causes release of hormones in the mother's body that cause more milk to be produced. This reduces the need for outside milk feeding, with all its attendant problems.

Should other milk be given?

We often feel that breast milk is insufficient in the early days, and the temptation to give top feeding (cow, buffalo, or tinned milk, or formula) is great. However, filling the baby's stomach thus will diminish suckling at the breast, which will have the unfortunate effect of reducing milk supply. This cycle may culminate in total cessation of breast feeding.

Apart from this consideration, cow or buffalo milk is not as well digested by human babies as breast milk. The likelihood of digestive problems is higher in babies fed animal milk. Besides, top feeding by bottle, wick, or even by spoon, can introduce nasty infections and cause diarrhoea.

What about honey, jaggery, and janam ghutties?

Honey is made by honeybees for their own consumption. It is quite inappropriate as a food for newborn babies. It has also been shown to carry dangerous infections like botulism.

Jaggery was a popular item for giving to babies after birth, but does more harm than good. Janam ghutties also serve no useful purpose and can, depending on their composition, do considerable harm.

How frequently should a baby be fed?

A healthy baby, born after nine months in the womb, will be able to regulate his own feeding. When a baby gets up crying is the time to feed him. This may occur half an hour, one hour, or four hours after the last feed. Generally, a healthy baby will take 6-12 feeds in 24 hours.

Babies differ in the time they take to feed. Some babies suck vigorously for only a few minutes before dropping off to sleep. Other babies suck slowly, with resting intervals, and cry if they are detached from the breast. The only way to be sure if a baby is feeding enough is to watch the urine output every day, and over a longer period of time, the gain in weight.

More info about breastfeeding --     Breastfeeding-2

Last Revision: February 15, 2016

For the technically minded

Milk ejection reflex (milk let-down) : this is a maternal response to suckling or other stimuli. The stimuli are conducted by nerves to the brain, and then to the pituitary gland. This releases a hormone, oxytocin, which acts in the breast to force milk from the alveoli, where it is produced, to the lactiferous sinuses, where it is easily available to the suckling baby.

Foremilk : milk available in the early part of a feeding. This milk has a low fat content, and thus less calories than hindmilk. If the baby is switched too quickly from one breast to the other, she gets only foremilk from both sides.

Hindmilk : this is the milk available later in a feeding, and is higher in fat and calories. This is important for the baby's satiety, sleep, and growth.

Contact Information

Dr. Parang Mehta,
Mehta Childcare,
Opposite Putli, Sagrampura,
Surat, India.     Tel: +91 9429486624.